Dimity (Miranda Otto) and Vicki-Ann (Rebecca Frith) are two sisters living in a small town in the middle of Australia. Dimity is painfully shy and a bit odd; Vicki-Ann is, well, desperate for a boyfriend. When a famous radio DJ from the big city moves into their town to take over their tiny radio station, it's big news. When it turns out that this sweet-voiced celebrity has moved in next door to the sisters, Vicki-Ann determines to hook him... not considering that her quiet sister may interfere with her plans.
The Australian film Love Serenade is a truly funny movie, so much so that I actually laughed out loud frequently while I was watching. Now, I'm hard to please when it comes to comedies, so what makes Love Serenade so much fun to watch? In a nutshell, it's that the humor comes from within the characters and situations, not from the hand of the director inserting "gags" into the story. Given the initial setup, given the characters and their quirks, the story unfolds exactly as it should... though, as viewers will find, it doesn't necessarily unfold as they might expect.
Speaking of unexpected elements, there's steady stream of references to fish throughout the film, culminating in some distinctly odd elements by the time the movie ends. It all fits into the movie's story, more or less, but it also seems to have a significance of its own that I admittedly missed. Perhaps it's an Australian cultural reference? In any case, it adds a touch of slightly surreal humor to the film along with the humor that comes from the interactions of these distinctly oddball characters.
Director/writer Shirley Barrett has a quirky and amusing vision of the little town where the events of Love Serenade take place. The stage, so to speak, is uncrowded: we see Dimity and Vicki-Ann, the DJ himself (George Shevtsov), and Albert (John Alansu), Dimity's boss at the restaurant where she works, all of whom are, to say the least, unique individuals. To the director's credit, the attention of the film is never allowed to stray from the central focus of the film: the two sisters and their painful rivalry for the new man in town.
Love Serenade is presented in a nicely done 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. It's not flawless, as the overall picture looks a bit soft, with detail and sharpness lacking in distant shots; there's also a touch of edge enhancement as well as noise that appears in some of the shots. What matters most, though, is that overall it looks good, particularly in the colors, which are very well-handled in this transfer. Love Serenade is visually a very colorful film, and the DVD presents this to excellent effect: from Vicki-Ann's hideous purple and green hairdresser's uniform to the natural greens and browns of grass and dirt, the colors are vibrant and rich while also natural-looking. It's interesting to look at the trailer to see how the film was cleaned up, as the trailer looks distinctly more ordinary and less richly colored than the final transfer.
The Dolby 2.0 track for Love Serenade has an attractive, full sound, whether in dialogue or in music portions of the soundtrack. The overall sound appears to be quite accurate, with no distortion or background noise as far as I could hear. My one qualm with the DVD's audio track is that the volume of the music and dialogue portions of the track is too different: if I set the volume so that the frequent music-only scenes were at a good level, the dialogue in the following scene would be too soft to hear properly. This won't be as much of a problem if you don't have neighbors and don't mind an intermittently loud movie, but for general purposes I'd have liked a more balanced track.
Love Serenade is pretty much a bare-bones disc, sporting only a set of trailers for the film itself and a few other Miramax productions. Looking at the DVD case, I suspect that whoever came up with the cover art for the DVD had no idea what the film was about, because I'd be hard pressed to think of a cover that was less appropriate to the actual movie. The cover image, of one of the actresses dolled up in makeup and a fancy dress, has absolutely nothing to do with the film, and conveys a completely different tone. In fact, it makes Love Serenade look like a cookie-cutter romantic comedy, which is exactly what it isn't.
Love Serenade is not your typical romantic comedy. That is, it's certainly a comedy, and it's about love, sex, and relationships, but it by no means follows the typical plot trajectory of a standard romantic comedy. I won't give away anything about how the story unfolds, but it suffices to say that I found it enjoyably unpredictable. I recommend picking up a copy.